In Wake of CDC Report, Lawmakers Call For Federal Help with Tick-Borne Disease Crisis

At Wednesday's press conference at Rockland Lake State Park
At Wednesday’s press conference.

Hot on the heals of the news from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control Tuesday that mosquito, tick and flea bite-related illnesses had tripled in U.S. in the past 12 years, New York Senator Chuck Schumer urged the CDC on Wednesday to commit some of the department’s $900 million budget increase this year to help fight these so-called “vector-borne diseases.”

At a Wednesday press conference, Mr. Schumer said “the good news here is that we have the money, thanks to the just-passed bi-partisan federal spending bill I negotiated and President Trump signed. The bad news is that under the current system, by the time these federal dollars make their way to critical communities like Long Island, the tick season could be well underway, or worse, over.”

“That’s why, today, I am turning up the spotlight on Long Island’s tick plight and urging the CDC to use the increase in funding we directed their way to do more to help the counties fight tick-borne diseases like Lyme, Babesea and Anaplasma,” he added. “I want some of the newly directed dollars given to the CDC to land here on Long Island before ticks takeoff, not after. The bottom line is that the feds need to send in the dollars Long Island needs to not just fight the tick war, but to win. We need help tracking, treating and preventing tick-borne diseases, which is why I fought so hard for these additional CDC dollars in the first place.” 

The CDC's graph of vector-borne illnesses since 2004.
The CDC’s graph of vector-borne illnesses since 2004.

The CDC reported earlier this week that 96,075 diseases caused by mosquitoes, tick and flea bites were reported in 2016, up from 27,388 in 2004.

According to the report, the number of Americans infected with Lyme disease is likely 8 to 10 times higher than the number reported, underlining the need for the federal government to help state and local health departments identify and treat those who become infected.

“Here in Suffolk County we have a fantastic helpline that is connected with Stony Book Southampton Hospital that got over 900 phone calls last year alone on tick-borne illnesses,” said Suffolk County Legislator Bridget Fleming. “The recent CDC report indicates that the number of tick-borne illnesses has more than doubled in less than a decade. We know that ticks are on the move. We have Lone Star ticks which have migrated from the south and continue to spread. We also just got a report of a new species of tick, The Longhorn tick, which was found in Union County, New Jersey.”

“An increase in funding for Suffolk County Vector Control will allow for implementation of a carefully-structured plan to effectively manage the tick population and increase prevention, treatment, tracking, and education regarding tick-borne illnesses,” she added.

“Tick-borne disease has become a national public health crisis that demands an aggressive and comprehensive response from our federal government,” said Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone. “While Suffolk County is leading the way with innovative research and preventative measures, we need Washington to step up to the plate to ensure we have the resources needed to get the job done.  I applaud Senator Schumer for his willingness to identify this problem for what it is on Long Island and give our counties the dollars we need to be successful in this fight.”

More information on the CDC report is online here.

Beth Young

Beth Young has been covering the East End since the 1990s. In her spare time, she runs around the block, tinkers with bicycles, tries not to drown in the Peconic Bay and hopes to grow the perfect tomato. You can send her a message at editor@eastendbeacon.com

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